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Representations of Buddhist Scriptures in the Mural Paintings of Dunhuang : Iconography, Inscriptions, and Textual Sources

par Lemardelé Élise - publié le

Principal Investigators : Kuo Liying, Costantino Moretti

Research concerning Dunhuang traditionally focused on the thousands of manuscripts discovered in cave 17 of the Mogao Cave Complex, as these materials, kept for the most part in Paris and London, were more easily accessible to our researchers. In the past decade, we have developed a close relationship and strong institutional ties with our colleagues from the Dunhuang Institute in charge of carrying out a systematic survey of hundreds of caves from the Mogao Cave Complex and its surrounding area. Thanks to this cooperation, the pictorial materials have become much more accessible to us. Studies combining research on the written sources and the images represented in the caves should shed more light on the type of Buddhism that was practised in this region located at the confines of Central Asia. We can now consider analysing the iconographic representations of Buddhist texts and the inscriptions associated with them on the murals of the main archaeological sites of the Dunhuang region (Mogao, Yulin, Xiqianfo dong and Dongqianfo dong, Wuge miao). Our analysis will focus on specific subjects (canonical sūtra-s and medieval apocrypha, cosmological tables, preaching scenes, specific ornamental motifs) represented on the murals and their corresponding votive inscriptions. By combining field surveys with the analysis of unedited materials, we will both study the iconographic sources in their archaeological context and link them with the relevant scriptural sources, in order better understand the caves’ ornamental programme and explain the very distinctive organisation of some of them.

Scientific output and planned scientific activities Organisation of regular workshops with the CRCAO participants ; organisation of an annual conference cycle with the experts from the Dunhuang Institute ; publication of a synthetic work.